Today, the Texas Senate passed S.B. 1769 by Senator José Rodríguez. The bill requires the Texas Juvenile Justice Department to create an advisory committee to study whether the state can safely stop fingerprinting youth referred to a juvenile probation department for low-level offenses. It now moves to the Texas House.
"The vast majority of youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system learn from their mistakes and go on to become productive law-abiding citizens," Rodríguez said. "However, despite existing safeguards, many juvenile records are still widely accessible, which creates serious burdens for youth who have gotten their lives back on track."
Most juvenile records in Texas are not on “restricted access,” so employers, landlords, and schools have easy access to this sensitive information. Even after a juvenile record is restricted, some information may continue to be accessible, especially through the FBI database.
County juvenile probation departments in Texas process tens of thousands of misdemeanor referrals each year for low-level adolescent behavior that does not lead to future crime. As a result, a main purpose of the juvenile justice system, as set out in the Texas Family Code, is “to remove, where appropriate, the taint of criminality from children committing certain unlawful acts.”
S.B. 1769 requires that the Texas Juvenile Justice Department study whether Texas can safely stop fingerprinting youth referred to a juvenile probation department for low-level offenses. If Texas does not fingerprint these youth for low-level offenses, no criminal record will be created – likely the most effective way to prevent these records from harming youth who have atoned for the low-level offense and have gotten their lives back on the right path.